Serving up delicious Bavarian cuisine in Glendale for almost 50 years, Zum Stammtisch has certainly lived up to its German translation: the regulars’ table.
“Loosely translated, it means your own special table,” said Werner Lehner, one of the owners of Zum Stammtisch. “Whenever you go to a restaurant in Germany they have a stammtisch table, and that’s where all the regulars go hang out, have a few beers, play cards and drink.”
All you need is a few minutes in the dimly lit, tavern-esque setting to understand that Lehner is in fact talking about his own establishment, which he’s been running with his brother, Hans, for almost 30 years now.
As soon as you step inside the Myrtle Avenue restaurant, you feel as though you’ve been transported into 1950s Germany — complete with servers in traditional Alpine attire and vintage decor such as framed front pages of an old New York City German-language newspaper.
Zum Stammtisch was originally founded back in 1972 by their father, John, who passed away in 1993. The family-run business has not only been able to thrive — it’s listed under the prestigious Michelin Guide and has kept up its outstanding reviews, for instance — but has also expanded.
About eight years ago, they opened up the Stammtisch Pork Store & Imports right next door. There, they sell 50 variations of beers, German cheese and snacks, their own butchered meats and sausages, and even offer some of their fan-favorite dishes in the form of frozen food.
But Lehner believes that it’s their ability to maintain their food and overall dining experience consistent that has helped them stay successful.
“A lot of times people come in here and are like, ‘Oh, we haven’t been here in 20 years. It’s all the same. The food is the same. This is the same,’” he said. “A lot of times even the waitress is the same.”
Lehner, who has been invited to appear on cooking segments for ABC and NBC morning shows, particularly understands the importance of keeping their food authentically German.
“A lot of our recipes are old German recipes that either my father brought with him or I had found here,” he said.
And most of those recipes have been the same for almost 40 years.
One of their best-sellers is the Jägerschnitzel, a large breaded veal cutlet in a fresh mushroom and veal sauce with homefries. It’s an exquisitely hardy dish that is perfect for the fall and winter time.
To complete any great German dinner, you need a great beer. They offer a diverse selection of beers, wines, coffee specialties — and are in the midst of developing their whiskey menu, which Hans mainly takes care of.
If you have room left over for dessert, there are several sweet options to choose from that include warm apple strudels, Bravarian chocolate mousse cake and Schwarzwälder Kirsch Torte (black forest cake with sour cherries and whipped cream). Lehner said that they collaborate with Tulip Bake Shop in Floral Park to create their desserts.
Now, Zum Stammtisch is in the midst of their annual two-week Oktoberfest festivities.
Lehner can’t even remember how many years they’ve hosted their special celebrations, but he assures that this year will be as full of live music and their traditional Bavarian menu as ever, from Oct. 8 to Oct. 10.
More than just a restaurant, though, Zum Stammtisch represents a piece of the community’s history.
As someone who grew up in the nearby Ridgewood, Lehner reminisced about the neighborhood being all German, a result of World War II.
“You would hear German spoken in the streets, there was all the local bars, there were so many more butcher stores, and German retail, that kind of thing,” he said.
Although that’s not the case anymore, as the area welcomes a new wave of immigrants, the father of three sees the new generations’ adventurous disposition and appetite for new experiences as a great way to keep their business alive.
“Back then, it used to be that if you were Italian you ate pasta every day and that was it. And if you were German, you ate meat and potatoes — you couldn’t give a German a slice of pizza years ago, it just didn’t happen,” Lehner said.
“I think everyone is just much more adventurous now,” Lehner added. “So we get so many different kinds of people — from different backgrounds, different ethnicities. It’s a nice mix.”
As much as the neighborhood may change, though, Zum Stammtisch’s guests can rest assured that the restaurant will always preserve its essence.
With a confident smile, Lehner promised, “We’re not going anywhere.”